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Monday, 24 May 1993
Page: 1063

Senator AULICH —I direct my question to the Minister for Family Services and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. Further to the Minister's report recently on the treatment of women by financial institutions, what further steps can she propose to improve services to women in banks?

Senator CROWLEY —The question reminds the Senate of the report to which I drew attention a week and a half ago. That report found that about 82 per cent of women were dissatisfied with the service they were receiving from Australian financial institutions. The report made a number of suggestions to banks about how they should treat women customers. The advice boiled down to one simple rule: if you treat women with the equal seriousness and the responsibility that you treat other customers, women will be much more pleased and, indeed, will not take their business away from that institution or bank to somewhere else.

  I have another suggestion for banks. Following up that report, I discovered that of the 13 largest banks in Australia only four have a woman on the board of directors. The Government has appointed women to the boards of the Commonwealth Bank and the Reserve Bank of Australia. There are literally hundreds of women with great riches of experience, with great talent, with economic skills and with more skills besides, particularly the capacity to know how women might prefer to be treated when they go into banks. I can certainly make many nominations, though I will not do that here. But if any banks should seek my advice or the advice of the Office of the Status of Women there are certainly extensive lists of women who are more than competent and more than capable to assist in this way.

  I challenge the banks of Australia to take the opportunity when there is next a vacancy on the board to consider filling it with a woman. I assure them that, in meeting this challenge, not only will they be promoting equality but they will also be, according to the report and the evidence of that report, practising good commercial sense.